Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, March 31, 2014

The deal with Divergent and it's impact upon girl power

For some time now, Hollywood has been trying it's hardest to capture the next big thing in teen fantasy series and much to their surprise(and many of the critics as well) Divergent appears to have hit the mark.

Based on the trilogy of YA novels by Veronica Roth, the story chronicles the struggles of a futuristic set Chicago where people are divided up into "factions" that use one main feature as their driving motivation towards life such as intelligence(Erudite),kindness(Amity) or bravery(Dauntless).

The heroine of Divergent is Beatrice "Tris" Prior,who was born into the selfless section(Abnegation) but upon her sixteenth birthday is allowed to chose which group she will join. That decision is left up to her yet a mandated test is given to see where her true inclinations lie. Beatrice's test results are deemed "inconclusive", meaning that she has the ability to fit into more than one faction and therefore dangerously "divergent":

Warned to hide what she truly is,Tris decides to join Dauntless which divides her from her family but is more of the path she needs to take than she knows.

During the brutal initiation trials, Tris discovers that she is not the only one of her kind as well as a plot from one faction to overthrow the existing government. Forced to reveal her hidden strengths, Tris must use all of her skills to save not only her current and former faction but all of their society from the enemy within.

While I haven't seen the movie, I did spend this past weekend reading the first novel in the series(totally great for a rainy day washout like the one we just had in my neck of the woods) and noticed something about this plot that explains to me why Divergent is such a cinematic success and more than just the little sister to The Hunger Games.

The last part of that statement is not meant in a bad way; both stories have plenty in common in a positive manner than just their genre. Each one has a leading lady who is encouraged by the repressive society they live in not to be themselves and to put on a show in order to tow the line.

Yet, it is by being who they really are inside that Katniss and Tris become the powerful force of change and even at times,manage to play the game forced upon them to their own advantage.

 I also watched the second HG movie,Catching Fire, this weekend( a big girl power pop culture fest for me!) and this theme hits home as Katniss is out and out told to play the love struck happy camper that the Capitol wants her to be or hell will be the least price she has to pay:

Of course,that veiled promise is a lie and Katniss winds up being a rebel leader,like it or not. I haven't read the third book of the HG series but do wonder if she also resents being manipulated by the resistance as well.

Anyhow, what is it about these themes that have caught fire with young women(and some of their elders) in these books and films? Well, in a lot of ways, this is a direct metaphor for how women are taught to behave both in public and private life.

 Girls are told as they grow up not to "too aggressive" and/or "too passive", that there is an either or dynamic to their dress,demeanor and interests that define them for all time as strong or weak. Both feminists and misogynists can be guilty of shoving young women into their mold of what the ideal female should or shouldn't be.

 Something that is pointed out by one of the characters in the novel Divergent is that being only one thing is not possible or healthy for anyone, let alone an entire society. Letting young women discover for themselves what path they want to take in life without fear of rejection or scorn is a scary notion to some but it's one that is now gaining traction.

You can even see this in the animated Disney film Frozen(which has become the biggest animated feature of all time in terms of box office results) where the outsider Elsa is not made into the villain but is a frustrated heroine who learns to break free and embrace her own special power. You can hear the bonds of repression shatter in the lyrics of her theme song "Let It Go"- "Be the good girl you've always had to be/Conceal/don't feel/don't let them know"-well now they know,indeed:

This doesn't mean that a girl can't fall in love or be best friends with a man(despite what certain people might think), it just means that she can take of herself and not wait for some Prince Charming type to rescue her from her problems. That's an important notion to get across without being preachy and with both animated films like Brave and Frozen and live action movies based on stories such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, a whole new generation is getting a positive and powerful message.

It may be easy for naysayers to dismiss this as over analyzing "kid's stuff" but hey, those kids are growing up into adults and many of the influences on where they go in life will come from pop culture. To paraphrase Whitman, the powerful play goes on and when this upcoming generation of girls and young women are called upon to contribute their verse, their part of the melody may be more potent than you think, thanks to these tales of amazing ladies who persevere under pressure:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TAR:All Stars loses a family,@Midnight's Hashtag Wars and what lies in store for Don Draper on Mad Men's final season

The mother and son team of Margie and Luke are old hands at running The Amazing Race and this was their second time out in the All Stars league, so the crucial mistake they made during this latest leg is a bit of a puzzler.

There were only two flights to Sri Lanka,where all of the teams had to go next but only one was a direct route and instead of getting the other flight which had a Singapore connection, Margie insisted that they remain on standby for the first direct flight. That proved to be fatal to their chances as no last minute seating became available and they arrived too far behind the other teams to be anything other than the last ones at the Pit Stop.

The two of them have had their share of troubles along the way,with Luke occasionally melting down during difficult challenges,but clearly this experience has increased their familial bond which is just as important as winning the big money here. So sorry,Margie and Luke that this third time out wasn't a good luck charm for you yet take heart in the good memories you leave behind:

I have to admit that I never expected Comedy Central's late night series @Midnight to be a success when it first hit the airwaves but the show has become a must-see for mockery of the internet's awful glory.

While the pseudo-game show format tends to be free flowing at times, there are a standard set of segments that both the comedian guests and audience members look forward to such as Rapid Refresh( featuring current viral videos and memes) and the finale FTW(For The Win) but my favorite bit is Hashtag Wars, where the guests have sixty seconds to shoot off one liners for such topics as Bad Cereals, Drunk Films, Rejected Candy or most recently,Ruin A Children's Book:

Granted,the level of humor may not be to everyone's taste and the jokes do have a fair hit or miss ratio but if you're looking for some good cheap laughs,this is one stop shopping,folks. As the gang at MST3K would say, just repeat to yourself,"it's just a show, I really should relax" or you could always read a good book at that hour:

Mad Men begins it's seventh and final season on April 13,with many characters and plot lines to be tied up but the one that matters most to this series is the fate of Don Draper.

Last season, Don had pretty much imploded all the major aspects of his life;work, family and second marriage. While I came to this show late,it was easy to see that Don's biggest enemy was his former self,Dick Whitman.

Despite his success in making himself over ,the ghost of Dick Whitman haunted Don in a rather Edgar Allen Poe way as persistent yet unexpected reminders of that troubled past popped up over the years,beating like a tell tale heart. Even when he came clean with certain others who deserved to know(yes,that includes Betty), his hands were never cleansed of the guilt from killing off that part of his life.

  You could argue that the social changes during the show's time frame also reflects Don's inner turmoil over the changes in his small corner of the world. That's rather narcissistic but this is Don Draper we're talking about, a man who has some good intentions but tends to follow his bad inclinations with very little hesitation.

 With a whole new realm of possibilities before him, Don could either sink or swim(another constant metaphor he's indulged in for awhile now) and while I also want to see how things will fare for the likes of Peggy,Joan and even that weasel Pete, Don Draper's story is the one that will define Mad Men when all is said and done. Hopefully, his journey will have a satisfying end and I think it will,since in many ways, Don is the most flexible character and the new era that's on the horizon can be his oyster if he plays his cards right:


GAME OF THRONES: The new season is inching ever so closer and while I won't give any book spoilers away, it's safe to say that the debt accrued by the Lannisters will be a devil of a bill to pay as karma starts charging interest on their loan of the Iron Throne:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Announcing the Sorry Sequel line-up for this year's Bad Movie Month

 As some of you know all too well, every August at LRG is Bad Movie Month where we celebrate a selection of awful cinematic art and while it may seem a bit soon to talk about the play list of bad flicks for 2014, think of this post as advance seating for your summer blog entertainment.

The theme this year is Sorry Sequels 2 and part of the reason for that is to crossover with my ongoing series,The Year of Freddy Fear,with the alleged "final nightmare" that is Freddy's Dead.

 Amongst the true horrors of this hokey horror feature are a lame 3D showdown that has the heroine wear 3D shades to enter Kruegar's psyche(I must confess that for years I held on to the cardboard 3D shades that were given out at theaters for screenings of this sucker and that one of the frame pieces had an ad for House Party 2 on it) and cameos by Roseanne and Tom Arnold,plus a video game sequence that would annoy the Angry Video Game Nerd even more than the actual NOES game did.

 People may think Freddy's Revenge is the worst sequel of the NOES films but that one is Shakespeare compared to this murky mess:

Speaking of screwing up Wes Craven franchises, Scream 3 is on the dreary docket as well. While the second film was a worthy follow-up, this attempt at a horror trilogy nearly killed off the concept(which was somewhat redeemed by the meta media theme of Scream 4).

Wes did direct this one,so he's not off the hook here. Why he didn't work on the script(that had many rewrites,some right up til the time to shoot scenes) as well is a mystery to me. The proof is in the weak pudding of the plot that ties in the movie within the movie slasher flick Stab as the setting for Sydney to suffer though,along with the rest of the audience. You know a sequel's bad when even a parody version of it makes more creative sense:

 For sheer shlockiness,however, it is hard to top the howling bad antics of Howling II: Your Sister's a Werewolf.  

 A seriously straight drop in both budget and script quality from the 1981 surprise shocker, this flimsy sequel stars horror legend Christopher Lee as a supernatural hunter out to take down a pack of lust crazed lycanthropes run by "werewolf queen" Sybil Danning.

The most memorable moments of this film include a shot where Sybil pops her considerable top,which apparently someone in the editing room liked so much that it's repeated twice during the closing credits,a rather dubious honor at best:

 Since my sister Stephanie happens to have her birthday in August, my blog birthday gift to her is a "Sister's Choice" selection and she went with Seed of Chucky,a movie that I did make her see with me and am still apologizing for to this day.

In my defense, I had really enjoyed the prior film Bride of Chucky,with Jennifer Tilly as the wacky slaughter happy sweetie of this series' butcher boy toy and my expectations for a follow-up film about their gruesome offspring were rather high. However, you know what they say about the bigger they and how hard they can fall:

Not all of our Sorry Sequels 2 picks are horror based,although they can be horrifying to watch. As a fantasy refresher, we have Conan the Destroyer 
where Arnie takes up the sword again as he is sent off to protect a princess in order to revive his dead lover(Sandhal Bergman was probably all too happy to have the perfect excuse to skip this movie).

Amongst Arnie's co-stars are Wilt Chamberlain as a bodyguard meant to keep the princess' virtue safe(insert ironic joke here), Sarah Douglas as an evil queen and Grace Jones as a badass warrior woman they pick up along the way. One good thing that you can say about CTD is that it's a shame that Jones didn't get a spin-off film of her own from this, as her character was the only one who was an interesting creative choice:

Finally,for a sci-fi scare, we turn to Species 2, a movie so bad that co-star Michael Madsen actually admits was "a chock of shit" and mind you, he does bad movies more often than Hoda and Kathy Lee take a sip of wine. The original film was a decent enough monster mash but this slapped together sequel botches the only potentially unique twist in the script.

 In this one, a male astronaut is the one who is mutating into a new scary space invader and is driven to mate but all so conveniently, a clone of the first troublesome space gal has been brought to life around the same time and yes, her name is Eve. After this one, the rest of the series went directly to home video and no great loss can be counted on that score:

I hope this set of sorry sequels whets your bad movie appetite this summer and just remember,regardless of genre, sequels are both the thing you fear the most but just can't help loving about the movies:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Now presenting some of newest Jane Austen book belles for the spring and summer literary balls

Spring has somewhat sprung lately and with the promise of fresh flowers and warm breezes comes the delight of new books for leisurely reading. Amongst those biblio blossoms are a few special Jane Austen posies such as the next entry in The Austen Project series, Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey.

The renowned detective writer updates this posthumous Gothic parody by placing it's heroine Cat Morland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,where she makes friends with Bella Thorpe(who shares her love of paranormal fiction) and catches the eye of dashing lawyer Henry Tilney.

Giving the story a Scottish location sounds like an interesting twist and since I've always considered NA to be the less terrifying equivalent of the Scream movies, McDermid's deft touch here should be welcome to both old and new readers alike when it debuts this April:

For an even more meta look at Austen,this summer brings us The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet,based on the popular as well as award winning web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Written by series creators Bernie Su and Kate Rodnick, this spin-off story offers deeper insight into Lizzie's life and times,including conversations with her beloved father and how the sudden fame of the LBD has affected our leading lady.

Whether you're a diehard fan who wants to know more behind the emotional scenes stuff or someone just discovering the web series, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet should be able to answer some of those burning questions you have and perhaps inspire a few new ones when it arrives in July:

In August, Syrie James graces us with a fictional look at Austen's early days in Jane Austen's First Love. And no, this is not about Tom Lefroy;instead our dear Jane has her head turned by Edward Taylor, a friend of her brother's who she meets at an engagement party.

While she knows that any true exchange of feelings between them may be impossible, Jane can not resist hoping for a love match and like a later heroine of her own design, attempts a bit of matchmaking for three sets of friends which misfire in most unexpected ways.

Syrie is one of the best of the Austenesque authors we have in our midst these days and this late summer treat should be a sweet yet smartly savory delight:

No doubt there will be many more Austen themed books to come as the warm days of spring and summer arrive and hopefully it won't get too hot in here to enjoy the heat of the turning pages as we book our private vacations in Austenland:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A close call for a TAR:All Stars team,some witchy competition on The Vampire Diaries and a second season sneak peek at Under The Dome

The latest leg of The Amazing Race: All Stars had the teams in Malaysia,where the Detour challenge proved to be the most daunting thus far. The choice was between doing a DJ mix at a nightclub(which relied a lot on sound cues,meaning that mother and hearing impaired son Margie and Luke really couldn't do it) or setting up a drink that had to be poured into a pyramid of glasses without any mixing of the liquids.

 The latter was the real tough one of the two,leaving just Margie and Luke(who got really frustrated and broke a set of glasses,which his mom made him clean up) vs. Team Brenchel(Brendon and Rachel of Big Brother fame). Rachel has resisted being as whiny as she was on their previous time on TAR and this task was quite the test of her ability to keep calm under pressure.

She did alright here but with her team having an extra challenge to face during the next leg,as they came in last for a non-elimination this time out,I suspect that a big league whimper fest from Rachel is forthcoming:

The Vampire Diaries is back on tonight(what is with all of the mini breaks this show has been taking lately?) and yes, Elena will be back in control of her own body but left with a nasty little parting gift from Katherine that will reconnect her to Damon. To paraphrase a classic Buffy episode,"Elena's in trouble? Must be Thursday!"

The sub plot I want to check out tonight is between Bonnie and new witch in town,Liv. Since Bonnie no longer has her magic powers due to being the anchor between our world and The Other Side(that's a long story,folks,just go with me on this one), her mentoring of this freshman sorceress seems like a good idea at first. However, Liv is rather giddy with power and not shy about flirting with Jeremy either (right in front of Bonnie,no less!).

While this does appear to be yet another set-up for a love triangle on TVD, there are other more serious consequences of having a young witch run amuck with her magic that hopefully the story will showcase well:

The second season premiere of Under the Dome isn't until June but the hype machine is already revving with info. Stephen King will be writing the first episode(entitled "Heads Will Roll") and Dwight Yoakam joins the cast as Lyle Chumley, a business rival of Big Jim's.

In addition,the new trailer promises that at least two characters are going to be knocked off in the first episode,which sounds like fodder for those betting brackets that folks are so fond of at the moment-given the large cast here, who could be taken out of the game that wouldn't upset the whole plot cart? My best guess is that Big Jim and Barbie will make the cut while one of those Dome kids (please let it be Junior Rennie!) and maybe Deputy Linda(Natalie Martinez does have a couple of other acting jobs at the moment) will be the ones tapped for such dubious honors-we shall see very soon!:


HONEY MAID GRAHAMS AD: With the Cheerios commercials that showcased family diversity last year, it's good to see that the Mad Men types have picked up on this vibe and are beginning to make this a real trend,as this truly wholesome commercial displays rather well:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating St. Pat's Day with some superhero wearing of the green

Happy St. Patrick's Day,folks-as I am of Irish descent, this particular holiday has some meaning for me yet in the pop culture realm most of the themes for this day revolve around pub crawls and scary leprechaun flicks(have no interest in the former and a wee bit in the latter).

So,I thought it would be fun to see if there were any superhero and/or villains with Irish lineage and yes, there are quite a few,it turns out. What was surprising to me is that between the Big Two comic book companies, Marvel has way more Irish men and women(including a gal called The Shamrock) on it's roster than DC. Perhaps this is due to the Marvel universe being more centered in real world settings than it's rival but with so many DC characters who proudly display green in their outfits,you would think they'd have more of the Irish on hand.

Since we do have a tradition of making just about anyone in green an honorary Irish citizen today, let's check out a few of the emerald clad DC heroes and foes to see if they have any suitable traits that make them worthy of such a honor:


While broody Oliver Queen does not have any direct ties to Ireland, his rebellious nature and desire to fight against tyranny from any quarter is befitting of a native from those emerald shores.

His live action appearances in Smallville established Green Arrow in the media mainstream culture as a Robin Hood type(who,granted, is an English archetype but still a man of the people warrior figure) and in his present incarnation as Arrow, a defender of the poor and downtrodden who does not hesitate to fight back even against those nearest and dearest to him to defend Starling City, a true worthy goal that definitely makes him a true son of Ireland at heart:


Pamela Isley's preference for the color green is more about her obsessive love of plant life,which she values over human life each and every time,than any allegiance to a nationality altho her red hair does invoke many a fetching Irish lass who uses her allurements for good or ill.

While her deadly intentions are never welcome, she can be quite the party girl who livens things up by getting the menfolk drunk on her home brew of titillating toxins,plus she loves a good fight as part of the evening's entertainment:


To be fair,there has been at least one member of the Green Lantern Corps who did have a few drops of Irish blood in him(Kyle Rayner, on his mother's side).

However,whether it's Hal Jordan,John Stewart or even the contentious Guy Gardner, the GL Corps are made up of those willing to protect and serve all communities in their area,which makes them very much like the typical Irish cop on the beat. That alone,plus their loyalty to the cause of justice and code of honor, earns each and every one of the Green Lanterns of Earth an Erin go bragh badge:


Why demented wordsmith Edward Nigma chooses to wear green in his get-up is one of the many puzzling things about him. Again ,like Poison Ivy,not the most honorable person to include amongst the Irish but it's difficult to deny his way with words and gift of gab, two very well known traits of our folk.

The Riddler also possesses the power of persuasion, another notable Irish trait and does know how to use his charms to make alliances even with the most anti-social of contemporaries,which really makes him more of an Irish man that many of us would like to admit:

So,let's enjoy Saint Patrick's Day together in a spirit of fun and hopefully sober celebration that embraces the best of Irish contributions to the world. Yes, that includes pop culture and even amongst the cape and cowl set, we Irish can hold up our masked heads high:


Friday, March 14, 2014

Kerry Vincent blazes the bakery salvation trail with Save My Bakery

One of my favorite people on the food television scene is Kerry Vincent, the sharply sweet regal lady judge from Food Network's former Challenge series who has also been on the panel of The Great Australian Bake-Off recently.

She has been called "The Simon Cowell of cakes" for her high standards of excellence yet her critiques are always professional and keenly accurate,which always reminded me of Harry Potter's best teacher at Hogwarts,Professor McGonagall(she does have a Maggie Smith look about her there). It's been some time since we've seen Kerry hand out her sugar laced wisdom in the US but fortunately, that is all about to change.

Starting next Wednesday,she'll be back on the air at Food Network with her very own series,Save My Bakery. Each week, Kerry will travel to bakeries that are in need of her expertise in order to keep their struggling business afloat.

I saw a preview episode of this show a few months back(it originally aired on The Cooking Channel) and seeing her take charge with her ladylike style(at one point,Kerry had the feuding family who ran the place all sit down and talk things out over a cup of tea!) was a blast.

Having her back with her very own show is a smart move,Food Network,and I'm sure those who appreciate her no nonsense attitude mixed with love of the culinary arts will be saving the date on their DVRs. If you haven't seen Kerry in action before,this is a truly prime time opportunity to do so and don't be intimidated by her forthright nature, Trust me, beneath that fierce frosting is a lady with a heart of red velvet sweetness who wants to elevate the talents of those around her :

She will have some competition in this field as the folks at TLC have given Cake Boss Buddy Valastro his own version of this concept called Bakery Boss.

Kerry has judged some of his work in the past when he was a contender for FN Challenge and I have no doubt that they have a mutual respect for each other as well as determination to help out their fellow pastry makers, In fact, they both possess a down to earth sensibility that has much to offer those bakery owners in serious need of solid advice:

However, my first choice will be Kerry and I so look forward to seeing her back on a regular basis on my TV. Perhaps if this type of series proves to be popular, we'll get more bakery centric shows and films to sweeten our viewing hours. That sounds divinely sweet to me in every sense of the term:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A happy day for a TAR:All Stars team,Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets and Hell's Kitchen opens up again for satanic service

With last week's sad departure of Mark and Mallory,it was nice to see a struggling team do well this time out on TAR:All Stars.  It did help that this time out,one of them wasn't walking around with an injury(as they did their previous time on the race).

 The father/son duo of Dave and Connor did have some trouble during the Detour,which required all teams to build a raft to carry out their challenge,as their makeshift boat took them down to the second option and they were prepared for the first(which happened to be delivering a box of supplies).

The guys decided to go ashore and back track on land,carting that heavy crate all the way. Personally, I would have just gone with the second Detour since they were already there but this worked out nicely as they wound up being Team Number One at the Pit Stop:

However,we still had a team destined to depart and that dubious honor fell to Joey and Meghan. They also had raft trouble and a delay that they weren't able to overcome as well as Dave and Connor were.

Sorry,guys,better luck next time! Hey,with more than one team having a third try at this race, seeing Joey and Meghan again is not completely off the table:

It was quite the action packed episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week,as Lady Sif descended from Asgard to track down escaped enchantress Lorelei(a plot point from Thor:The Dark World-I so need to see that).

Lorelei provided herself to be a formidable foe and her mind control over men caused some severe heartache for Melinda May as she informed her that Ward(who was under her spell) admitted that he had feelings for a female member of his team and "it's not you."-nice stiletto jab to the heart there,ouch! I do hope that this isn't the last we see of Lorelei,as we could use some top level villainy on this show:

A bigger development was Coulson casually quizzing Lady Sif about possible other alien visitors to earth,particularly ones with a blue hue to their skin and in the list of names she rattled off,Kree was mentioned.

To diehard Marvel fans,the Kree is a big deal since they play a prominent role in several superhero story lines and might even be featured in the next Avengers movie. With Coulson and now Skye having extraterrestrial blood in their veins, this lays open some serious possibilities and with Coulson now being determined to uncover as many secrets as he can about this,things are bound to get messy.

We're getting some promo Marvel special next week but when the new episode of AOS returns, this avenue is definitely going to be explored further:

Hell's Kitchen is ready to start up again tonight,as the standard pack of misfit chefs line up for culinary punishment.

By now,the formula for this competition is easy to predict and while it's not on the level of something like Top Chef,HK does offer some fiery fun to be had. I should just stay away but such delicious comfort(junk) food for thought is hard to resist,folks:


TATTOO NIGHTMARES: The latest season of this show is now airing at Spike on Tuesday nights at 11 and even if you're not into such personal artwork, you can at least appreciate the talents of the folk tasked to repair the damage caused by unfortunate tattoo decision such as Jasmine(who I am happy to say is a family friend),whose handiwork is truly amazing to behold:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A side order of sci-fi/fantasy is up at the Movie Trailer Park

While we still have a ways to go before spring is truly upon us, the movies due out soon are more than ready for some summer action. Our focus here is on the sci-fi/fantasy section,which includes comic book fare and an adaptation of a popular YA series(which is becoming it's own genre at this point),namely Divergent, which hits the theaters on March 21.

Shailene Woodley stars as Tris, a young woman in a futuristic version of Chicago who is nervous about joining one of the five social factions in her society which are based on certain personality traits.

 Upon testing she discovers that her ability to fit into any group(called "Divergent" of course) sets her apart in a bad way and in order to avoid detect,must pick a faction that will allow her to blend in more easily. Unfortunately,that's not as simple as it sounds and between dubious allies and a suspicious group leader,Tris finds herself in a situation that not only reveals what she is but forces her to take charge.

 This series,based on a trio of novels by Veronica Roth,does have a solid following and could very be the next Hunger Games if they play their cards right:

Next in line is Transcendence,where innovative computer genius Will Caster(Johnny Depp) has created the perfect artificial intelligence device but is literally shot down by a technophobe before it can be showcased to the world.

As a way to save both his achievement and what's left of his life, Will's wife Evelyn(Rebecca Hall) and his best friend Max(Paul Bettany) upload his brain waves to the AI device and the two become one. That merger proves to be a real danger to all of humanity as Will 2.0 decides to take charge by any means available and his new techno base has quite a large reach.

This could be a fun techno-thriller but it's hard to tell at this point,very fifty-fifty. Perhaps by the time it arrives in theaters in April, we'll be able to see if this transcends into box office gold or home video rental dross:

Also arriving in April is the second Captain America movie,subtitled The Winter Soldier that features characters from the Avengers film such as Black Widow and Nick Fury,the latter being a target of the title adversary.

As Steve Rogers attempts to adjust to life after his last big adventure,the folks at S.H.I.E.L.D. need his help to fight off this new enemy but to recruit a new member to the team named Falcon( played by Anthony Mackie) and yes, that is Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce,a high level member of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Personally, I like Chris Evans as Captain America,mainly due to the believability he brings to the role(also thought he made a good Johnny Storm in those Fantastic Four flicks) and this film will certainly be pleasing as a stand alone story as well as a tie in for the next big Marvel movie match-up:

Speaking of Marvel match-ups,The Amazing Spider Man 2 has plenty of villainy afoot for our webslinger to battle such as Electro(Jamie Fox),The Rhino(Paul Giamatti) and Harry Osborn,heir apparent to his father's company Oscorp, which is responsible for much of the mayhem here.

The first film did better than expected and was actually a decent movie on it's own terms despite being a reboot of the earlier successful(at least for the those first two movies) Sam Raimi run series. Hopefully, this sequel can cement this new approach to the iconic superhero and make it's own mark upon audiences and diehard fans alike this May.

 After all, they do have more than one comic book version of Spiderman in print and if done right,there's no reason not to enjoy this fresh flavor of superhero goodness:

 It really looks as if Marvel will be dominating the fantasy field this season yet again,with X-Men:Days of Future Past on the silver screen spring horizon as well as Guardians of the Galaxy due out this August.

That's fine with me since they do bring a lot of quality to the entertainment table but it would be nice if DC was ready with something just as good and I don't mean simply waiting around for the Superman Vs. Batman movie(Ben Affleck will be fine as Bruce Wayne,btw).  Just saying that a little more variety in the superhero field would be very much appreciated.

Anyway, it's hard to complain when such an embarrassment of riches is heading our way. Then again, they're really going to have to work some serious movie magic into making Rocket the raccoon not look like a complete joke(sorry,but I didn't read those comics,okay?) and releasing GOTG in August is not a strong sign of confidence from the studio. However, I would be very happy to be wrong about that and look forward to more cinematic flights of fantasy this year:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Matthew Quick's latest novel celebrates The Good Luck of Right Now

In his follow-up novel to The Silver Linings Playbook(which was a successful and award winning film adaptation as well), Matthew Quick introduces us to another off-beat leading man in The Good Luck of Right Now.

Bartholomew Neil is 39 years old and has lived all of his life with his sweetly strange yet devoted mother, who did what she could to help him cope with the world. His emotional and social skills were always rather limited from birth yet Bartholomew appreciated the "pretending" that his mom liked to do in order make their lives seem less dreary.

When his mother passes away from a brain tumor, Bartholomew is urged to deal with his grief by working with Wendy,a student social worker who has some issues of her own that she's not dealing with. He is willing to go along with this,as pretending seems to be something that people outside of his comfort zone do just as well as his mom did:

One of the ways that Bartholomew pretended for his mother is when she began to call him "Richard" and since that started right after viewing a Richard Gere movie, he assumed that she meant the movie star and allowed her to think that was he who he was at times.

Upon her death, he discovered one of Gere's "Free Tibet" form letters in her possessions and felt that confirmed their connection. Bartholomew decides to write letters about his life to Richard Gere in a private correspondence that allows him to speak freely to someone about the way things have changed since his mother's death.

 Part of his problem in communicating with others is that harsh inner voice that belongs to "the angry man" inside that constantly mocks him for his failings,much like Gere's character in An Officer and a Gentleman when hassled by his drill sergeant:

His life gets even more complicated as his local priest Father McNamee moves in with him after unofficially resigning from the church,convinced that a message from God will come from Bartholomew. Wendy is less than thrilled with this development but her own situation becomes more dire and in need of intervention from both of these unlikely sources of friendship.

Bartholomew does have "age appropriate" goals ,as Wendy would say,such as making a connection with the Girlbarian, a library assistant whose painful shyness appears to match his own.

Through another unexpected connection,he manages to make friends with her constantly swearing yet cat loving brother Max(who is mourning the loss of his beloved pet Alice) and is slowly but surely hoping to someday give her the "fairytale" that Gere gave to his leading lady in Pretty Woman:

An impromptu trip to Canada(to visit the "Cat Parliament" that Max has heard so much about) offers all of them a chance to clear up a few personal mysteries and examine what to do about the rest of their lives. Bartholomew goes along for the ride in more ways than one and learns to do what he can to be a Richard Gere type of hero,not only for others but himself as well.

While I've never read any of Quick's books before( I did see the film version of SLPB before reading this novel),this heartfelt yet humorous at times novel is a good introduction to his literary style. His particular blend of quirky pathos does true justice to his characters and compels you to become more emotionally invested in their struggles.

While the story does have it's share of sad moments,the spirit of sincere hope for the better prevails throughout the pages and in my opinion, avoids any whiff of cloying sentimentality. The Good Luck of Right Now is available at a bookseller near you and is definitely a great gift to  give to yourself or any other reader in search of a down to earth tale about family,loss and love:

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A sad departure on TAR:All Stars,Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns again and Kat's out of the bag on The Vampire Diaries

As the second leg of this season of The Amazing Race:All Stars went on, it quickly became clear that Mark and Mallory were knee deep in trouble.

The Roadblock challenge had one team member build a mini car that needed to be taken to a children's center. Since Mark was carrying the completed car and getting it securely into the cab they were going to take, Mallory was asked to hold his backpack and what a big mistake that turned out to be!

 She put it down and forgot all about it,which put poor Mark in a tailspin as everything he had with him was in that bag. He insisted on going back for it,which she objected and even though Mallory had his passport on her person,leaving a backpack behind has never ended well for anyone on TAR:

They did retrieve the bag but lost so much time that they arrived last at the mat and were eliminated. Such a shame-too bad they didn't have the other Express Pass but Cord had handed that off to one of the Country Singer girls(Jennifer,who played him like a fiddle) during the wait time at the Roadblock.*sigh*  I do feel bad for Mark,first Bopper being too sick to compete and now this. If anyone deserves another shot at TAR, he and his good buddy should be first in line:

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came back from yet another hiatus this week,as Coulson and his crew did what they could to save Skye from dying.

 After perusing a few classified documents,the location of a possible miracle drug was determined and with the assist of Agent John Garrett(Bill Paxton,making a very welcome appearance here),managed to find that special medicine in the nick of time although it was not without a little risk there:

Lots of good moments in this episode such as Coulson seeing more that he wanted to in a secret room marked "T.A.H.I.T.I"(which will hopefully open up a plot door or two down the line) and Melinda May going to town on the face of that creep who shot Skye.

 I figured that Skye would be revived somehow and with any luck, that near death experience will give her more of a clue to why she's so valuable to certain parties. Next week, we're getting some Asgard action as escaped villianess Lorelai is being pursued by Lady Sif(yes,she hangs out with Thor if you haven't seen those movies) and that should be some serious superhero fun:

Speaking of fun, The Vampire Diaries has had quite a bit of that recently with the latest plot line of Katherine taking over Elena's body(thanks to a Traveler's spell from her new found daughter Nadya) and now the Salvatore boys are finally catching on.

Granted,they're been pretty distracted lately with Damon having had that nasty Augustine formula injected into him that causes vampires to turn cannibal there but still, Katherine is not as savvy as she thinks! Her practically pushing a stake into Stefan's hands during that last deadly encounter with Damon was a huge bell going off and I'm glad that he and Caroline came to that obvious conclusion already. How this is going to play with Damon's new favor profile promises to be interesting,indeed:


CHOPPED: A new Tournament of Champions is starting up on Sunday while new regular episodes are airing on Tuesdays and I have to say that this series has become as busy as bee lately. Still loving it but hope that it doesn't wear out with all of this extra work:

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fanny Price:Slayer of Vampires on sale and booking some Jane Austen goodness

This week is Read An Ebook week,which my publisher Smashwords likes to celebrate by holding a special sale where readers can score plenty of discounts and even free books.

With spring hopefully around the corner,I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share my own bits of online ivory and during this week,my new Jane Austen themed ebook Fanny Price:Slayer of Vampires is now available for free(along with the first two ebooks in my Chronicles of Copper Boom series,Party Overkill and A Chilling Warmth).

Just use the coupon code RW100 at the SW site to stake your claim to FP:SOV and/or The Chronicles of Copper Boom titles,plus check out the other great books on sale for Read An Ebook week as well. The sale ends March 8,so make haste as Mr. Collins would say!

In the meantime,I've gathered up a few scenes from Austen related films that showcase reading and books just to get you in the mood.

Granted,Becoming Jane was far from being an accurate portrayal of our dear Miss Austen but you must admit that this exchange between Anne Hathaway's Jane and James Mcvoy's Tom Lefroy is rather enchantingly saucy:

Next up is 2007's Northanger Abbey,where Catherine and Isabella bond over their love of "horrid books" at a local library in Bath.

I love how Catherine's face goes into sweet shock mode as her supposedly more worldly friend whispers a few spoilers from The Mysteries of Udolpho,not to mention a few gossipy tidbits about Lord Bryon!:

Last yet not least is a Mansfield Park moment from The Jane Austen Book Club, where French teacher Prudie is the midst of the book as she is requested by one of her students to help him study his lines for the school play.

That meta-MP experience brings Prudie much too close to giving up what sense and sensibility she has regarding affairs of the heart along with potentially making her a Maria Bertram to this all too young Henry Crawford:

I'll like to offer my sincere gratitude for all of the support Fanny Price:Slayer of Vampires has gotten thus far and will hopefully receive as time goes on. Turning someone else's story into my own is quite daunting but if it entertains my fellow Austen fans,the effort is definitely worth it: